Page:The Irish in Australia.djvu/74

From Wikisource
Jump to navigation Jump to search
This page has been validated.

nibbling sheep and grazing cattle would have to retire before red-shirted and loud-spoken miners, and when the clear pellucid waters of the Yarrowee would be ruthlessly diverted and discoloured in the eager and all-absorbing search for gold. The scene was indeed to be changed. After ten years of silence and slumber, Ballarat was to become a name famous throughout the world. It is now a well-established fact that the existence of gold was known to several of the early squatters, but such was their horror of change, and their fear of seeing their properties overrun by hordes of lawless adventurers, that they succeeded in keeping the important secret to themselves for some time, and staving off the evil day as long as possible. Some of them certainly did communicate privately with various colonial governors on the subject, but these latter dignitaries were still more alarmed at the possible consequences and the increased responsibility of their position, if the exciting news became generally known and a rush of gold-seekers set in from the Old World. Sir Charles Fitzroy, in an official despatch to Earl Grey, informed the Secretary of State for the Colonies that he had been shown a large mass of golden quartz, but he feared "that any open investigation by the government would only tend to agitate the public mind and divert persons from their proper and more certain avocations." But when Hargreaves and Esmond returned from California, fully impressed with the conviction that Australia also was auriferous, it became a matter of impossibility to conceal the golden secret any longer. Hargreaves immediately commenced prospecting for the precious metal at Summerhill Creek, in the Bathurst district of New South Wales, and succeeded in finding several nuggets and a considerable quantity of gold dust. His success naturally produced the